Surviving Our Failed Expectations
In Houston, I had the privilege of serving at Fort Bend Community Church as a youth ministry intern. During my three years there, I had plenty of opportunities to sharpen my ministry and leadership skills. One of the more daunting and challenging responsibilities that I had was teaching.
Back then, I would spend Friday nights teaching Bible lessons to about a hundred middle schoolers. Sometimes those nights felt like it was all about surviving the 30 minutes of judgmental glares, disinterested looks and distracted faces from the students. However, oftentimes the most discouraging part happened after. The 15 minutes when I would drive home alone were some of my darkest moments in ministry. As I would start to recall the events of that night, it quickly evolved to something else. I would dissect, examine and criticize every single part of my presentation. With each attack, I became more disappointed, shameful and insecure. Once my car came to a stop, the attacks would stop; however, I would continue to wrestle with the reality that I could actually be a failure.
You may not be in charge of a bunch of middle schoolers, but I think we can all testify to the moments of trying to survive the onslaught of our own thoughts. When we are ministering to others, we are constantly being hounded by these questions: Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? Am I making an impact?
A lot of these questions stem from the root issue of wanting to feel like our lives have value. That the work we do actually matters and brings change to the world. No one wants to find out that their work and efforts had no effect at all. We want AABC to thrive. We want our co-workers, our family members and our friends to come to know the Lord when we evangelize to them. We want our small groups to have deep and intimate conversations every time. We want the whole room to be raising their hands and singing at the top of their lungs when we lead worship. However, when these measurements of "success" don't happen, it becomes very easy to blame ourselves. Suddenly, all our insecurities come up and we wonder if we are the problem.
Psalms 139:13–14 says:
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.”
This passage reminds us that it is God who made and crafted us. He is the one responsible for the mind, the face, the mouth, the eyes and everything else that we have. He—in His wisdom, love and imagination—designed and intricately wove each one of us. DNA strand by DNA strand, God created each one of us for His purpose. The reality is yes, you might be awkward. Yes, you might actually be incoherent when you talk. Those things are not bad at all, even if societal pressures and expectations tell us otherwise. When we believe that the only way we have value is if we are effective communicators or have natural charisma, then we may be discrediting who God made us to be.
We are all uniquely gifted in different areas. Some of you are wired to see the deepness beyond the surface and bring out that beauty in others. Some of you are wired to see the needs and pains of others and will sacrificially pour yourselves out until those needs are met. Regardless of who you are, God made you a certain way for a specific purpose. We should learn to accept all parts of ourselves—because God made them all.
It's a hard and long process to begin to accept the things we've hated about ourselves for so long. But self-confidence doesn't come from working harder or developing skills that we envy in others. It comes from laying down our insecurities before Him and trusting that our good God created us. Joy comes when we take God at His word and start to embrace every single part of ourselves and let our lives be firmly rooted in Him. Then we would have the freedom to be faithful in our respective ministry circles, instead of chasing someone we aren't supposed to be.
“What if who I hoped to be was always me?” –Jon Bellion
Image credit: Carlo Pignataro